Lost and Damaged

Rich countries have utterly failed to limit their pollution despite knowing for decades the negative effects it causes. They have also failed to support poor countries in developing cleanly instead of with fossil fuels.

As a result, we live in a world that is already 1C warmer than a couple of hundred years ago. That might not seem like a lot, but all the climate change disasters we are witnessing show that even 1 degree warming represents unsafe territory for many millions of people. 

Hurricane Maria Damages Dominica's Main Hospital, Leaves ...
Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria

Because rich countries have also failed to help countries and people on the frontline of climate change to adapt, we must now face up to the economic, social and cultural impacts from climate change to which we can’t adapt. This is what policy-makers and experts refer to as “loss and damage”. Small island nations first raised the alarm back in 1992, but were fobbed off with insurance schemes. Nowadays, though, insurance providers won’t cover for many of the effects of climate change as they have become too common.

Warsaw International Mechanism

At COP19 in Warsaw, poor countries won their fight to create an international mechanism for loss and damage. At the time Filipino negotiator Yeb Saño was on hunger strike as Supertyphoon Haiyan battered his country, killing over 5000 people

COP19: NGO delegates walk out of Warsaw climate talks in ...
Yeb Saño supported by climate justice groups

This year Parties are due to review the loss and damage mechanism, so COP25 has become the moment to make it fit for purpose. Since being set up, the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) has made decent progress in terms of knowledge generation and coordination on loss and damage, particularly on climate-induced displacement. 

However, it has made zero progress on the critical and issue of facilitating financial support to poor countries so that they can avert, minimise, and address loss and damage. 

Fear of finance

Rich countries are very reluctant to even talk about this topic. The United States made sure to insert a “liability clause” at COP21 to absolve themselves from any responsibility for climate damages. Even though they are the biggest polluters of all time

Frontline communities around the world need resources to be able to cope with a rapidly warming world. In the negotiations, developing countries want to set up a comprehensive finance facility. This facility would funnel large sums of mostly public funds towards dealing with loss and damage. They also hope to set up an expert group on action and support for loss and damage, and to conduct a needs assessment for loss and damage in developing countries.

Poor countries like Dominica, Mozambique, and the Philippines are already facing huge amounts of loss and damage. In the case of Dominica, the country suffered damages worth 224% of its GDP in one hurricane. Therefore, they argue, the finance must be up to scratch. 

Rich countries could contribute directly from their national budgets. Supplementary funds can come from new and innovative sources such as air and maritime levies, a Climate Damages Tax on oil, gas and coal extraction, and a “Robin Hood” Financial Transaction Tax. Together these sources can generate badly needed additional funds. 

Though it is hard to estimate the total costs, a coalition of civil society groups have called for at least USD $50 billion per year by 2022, rising to USD$150 billion by 2025 and USD$300 billion by 2030. The coalition have calculated that the fair share of the US alone is 30-40% of the global effort to address loss and damage. 

COP25 should recommend other measures such as immediate relief on all debt due to be paid by developing countries who face the current climate emergency. This could take the form of an interest-free moratorium on debt payments, which would open up resources currently earmarked for debt repayments to immediate emergency relief and reconstruction.

A question of governance

The Warsaw International Mechanism was set up under the COP, but loss and damage is also an issue in the 2015 Paris Agreement (Article 8) which has its own governing body known as the CMA. (Shorthand for the absurd “Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement”). 

The “scope” of Article 8 of the Paris Agreement is narrower than how loss and damage has been defined under the COP. Because of this, developed countries are keen for the review to conclude that the Warsaw Mechanism should be governed exclusively by the CMA. Developing countries insist that the COP and CMA jointly govern the WIM. What seems like a technical quibble is actually a highly political battle.

Many observers have touted COP25 as the loss and damage COP. But with the Chilean Presidency and many developed countries’ attention focused more on the market mechanisms of Article 6, and with rich countries refusal to accept their responsibility, vulnerable countries will have to fight tooth and nail to make sure COP adopts decisions that take loss and damage seriously.

The Group of 77 + China (a negotiating bloc of 134 developing countries) have submitted a proposal to the COP. In it, they outline their ideas for what COP25 should decide regarding loss and damage. With the moral high ground, they should be successful. But the vested interests against them are strong. Keep checking our coverage to see how to debate unfolds.

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